The Hague in Kamieniec Ząbkowicki or a few words on a cycle of Dutch vedutas from the Palace of Kamieniec

Published on: 17 / 03 / 2010

Authors of this entry:
  • dr hab. Andrzej Kozieł

Our knowledge of the former mobile interior decor of the palace in Kamieniec Zabkowicki is inversely proportional to the knowledge about the architecture of this masterpiece of the European neo-Gothic period. While the circumstances of its origin, the history of its construction and the genesis of the architectonic form of the palace, designed in 1838 by Karl Friedrich Schinkel for the Princess Marianne of the Netherlands (Princess of Orange-Nassau), have had numerous and in-depth monographs, the only information about the former interior furnishings of the residence of Kamieniec are a few prewar photographs and a short report by Günther Grundmann, included in a volume of his memoirs from 1972. He recalls Renaissance furniture decorating the interiors and classicistic furnishings manufactured according to Schinkel’s design. The walls of the palace were decorated with views of Berlin and the Hague and with numerous portraits of the princes from Orange-Nassau and Hohenzollern dynasties painted by Friedrich Bury, Karl Begas and Franz Krüger.

The rushed evacuation of the palace owners in 1944 and the later plunders, fire and devastation of the abandoned edifice caused the furnishings of the palace rooms described by Grundmann to be dispersed and, most likely, in large part destroyed. One of the few remaining elements of the former palace interior of Kamieniec is a group of seven landscapes currently owned by Museum in Nysa. Having undoubtedly formed in one group, according to the signatures preserved in all the paintings, the vedutas were executed in 1830 by three artists: Bartholomaeus Johannes van Hove (4 paintings), Andreas Schelfhout (2 paintings) and Antonie Waldorp (1 painting). All the paintings faithfully depict authentic places in the 19th century Hague and in the Dutch capital’s suburbs at that time.

Here at the ice-bound Hof Vijver pond numerous ice skaters are enjoying their afternoon skate, and nearby, in the shadow of the facade of the council buildings of Binnenhof, a boat is gliding across the river to the west side and towards the tower of St. Jacob's (Groote Kerk) church seen in the distance. We can see the Hof Vijver pond once again, this time in summer evening, on the background of the Het Buitenhof square, between the sunlit edifice of Het Stadhouderlijk Kwartier and Gallery of Prince William V, partly hidden behind the trees. Now it only takes twenty steps towards the pond bank and one has to turn left to be delighted by the shaded, grand facades of the waterside buildings of the Het Buitenhof square, whose northern side is closed off with the austere silhouette of the Prison Gate (Gevangenpoort). Then one moves away from the city centre – to the street of Korte Voorhout, heading towards the Hague Wood (Het Haagse Bos), a change of guards by the city tollbooth is underway, while a few pedestrians take shelter from the morning sun in the shade of trees. Several hundred meters further numerous strollers walk around a small pond among old, wide-stretching trees, above which the dome of the Huis ten Bosch palace can be seen in the distance. On the northern side of the town, in the broad Prinse Straat connecting the centre with Scheveningen, there’s an ongoing ritual of the usual evening business, constant and unchanging like the tower of St. Jacob's church (Groote Kerk) in the background. Finally the sea appears as well – by the light of the setting sun fishermen pull their boats on a sandy shore, towards the dunes overlooked by Het Paviljoen van Wied, while in the distance one can see a tower of the parish church and the roofs of Scheveningen. The three creators of the veduta cycle of the Hague formerly exhibited in Kamieniec: Bartholomaeus Johannes van Hove (1790-1880), Andreas Schelfhout (1787-1870) and Antonie Waldorp (1803-1866), undoubtedly used to be among the most accomplished and appreciated Dutch landscape painters of the 19th century. They were members of both the Dutch Royal Academy of Fine Arts and the Royal Netherlands Institute, holders of prestigious royal orders and honorary medals of various Dutch art associations, winners of numerous awards and medals in both local and international exhibitions, as well as favourites of the Orange court.

The cycle of vedutas of the Hague and its surroundings was not intended for the palace in Kamieniec. The date of the paintings' creation, preceding by 8 years the beginning of construction works on the palace, leaves no doubt about that. Most likely the paintings ere transferred to Kamieniec only after 1855, when the Marianne of Orange's son and heir of Kamieniec, prince Albrecht, began decorating the palace interiors. Until then the Hague views decorated the walls of Palais Prinz Albrecht in Lindenstraße in Berlin (no longer existant). They had been placed there at the request of the Dutch king Willem I,'s daughter, princess Marianne, who had married prince Friedrich Heinrich Albrecht, the Prussion king Friedrich Wilhelm III's youngest son. The series of vedutas of the most frequented places in the capital of the Netherlands Kingdom, the Hague, and its surroundings, executed by outstanding artists linked to the Orange court, was most likely commissioned by the royal court on the occasion of princess Marianne’s wedding and her subsequent move to Berlin.

Transferring the cycle of vedutas of the Hague painted by Dutch artists to the interior of the palace in Kamieniec was certainly a conscious ideological statement by prince Albrecht. Along with other paintings mentioned by Grudmann: the members' portraits of the Orange-Nassau dynasty, painted at the beginning of 1830s by Willem I’s court painter Jan Baptist van der Hulst, as well as the Feast of Balthasa and The Marriage in Cana, painted on the palace’s dining room walls in 1863-1864 by another Dutchman, Kleijn van Brandes, the views of the Hague’s squares, streets and park alleys represented in the iconosphere of the palace’s neo-Gothic interiors are clearly legible symbol of the Dutch roots of that side branch of the Hohenzollern family. Diminishing political importance of that branch of the royal dynasty was masked by depictions of its former glory and greatness of its ancestors. In that context those vedutas of the Hague should be perceived not as romantic “memoirs” of the landscapes of princess Marianne’s youth but rather as illustrations of former power – 19th century equivalents of the vedutas of the family estates so common in the modern residences of kings and princes of Europe.

The text was based on the issue:

Andrzej Kozieł, “The Hague in Kamieniec Zabkowicki or a few words on a cycle of Dutch vedutas from the Palace of Kamieniec”, [in:] Marmur dziejowy. Studia z historii sztuki, Ewa Chojecka and others (ed.), Poznań 2002, p. 389-398

Literature:

Günter Grundmann, Erlebter Jahre Widerschein. Von schönen Häusern, guten Freunden und alten Familien in Schlesien, München 1972, p. 285-291

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